This week marked a huge milestone for the Air Force’s F-15EX Eagle II platform.
According to the 53rd Wing, the new fighter successfully completed the first phase of its initial operational test and evaluation program with the launch of an AGM-158 Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile.
During this phase, the Eagle II fighter participated in 19 Large Force Exercise events where it flew alongside the service’s fifth-generation airframes.
The JASSM was launched during exercise Combat Hammer. While the exact details of the shot remain highly classified, the jet’s employment of the longest non-nuclear Air-to-Ground munition in the Air Force’s inventory is quite the feat for the platform.
Maj. Calvin Conner, 85th TES F-15 division commander commented that “Proving the F-15EX capability to employ three JASSMs after witnessing validation of the Air-to-Air dominance role it can play with a 12 AMRAAM loadout is incredible,” adding that “The firepower a 4-ship of F-15EXs brings to a combatant commander is tremendous.” As the service’s first ever airframe to carry out an Integrated Test and Evaluation program, the latest Eagle variant is a unique addition to the Air Force’s arsenal of aircraft. Equipped with more weapon stations than other Eagle predecessors, an enhanced processor and fly-by-wire control system, the F-15EX will add to the service’s already formidable fleet.
A brief overview of the Eagle II
Back in 2018, the Air Force discussed the development with an F-15 successor to replace aging variants with manufacturer Boeing. The service desired a new fighter that could carry up to 22 air-to-air missiles with the Advanced Missile and Bomb Ejector Rack, an AESA radar and other sophisticated attributes. Boeing proposed two prototypes, a single seat and a two-seat variant, which the USAF opted for the latter. Although the new Eagle variant is not expected to survive into the next decade, the airframe was procured by the Air Force at a time when F-22 Raptor production ceased to exist, the F-35 Lightning II was delayed and its existing arsenal of older F-15 models were badly aging.
As detailed by the Air and Space Forces, “Due to insufficient FY22 procurement, the F-15C/D fleet has continued flying beyond its designed service life, posing a serious risk of structural failure. Similar infrastructure, support, and training requirements will permit existing F-15 units to quickly transition to the F-15EX.”
Specs & Capabilities
By 2020, the new F-15EX program was approved under the National Defense Authorization Act for the fiscal year, which was signed in December 2019.
The same year, the first F110-GE-129 engine for the new fighter was delivered to the Air Force. By 2021, the latest Eagle iteration took its first flight.
Equipped with powerful engines, the F-15EXX can fly at a speed of Mach 2.5 (times the speed of sound), making it the fastest fighter jet across the globe. Comparably, the fifth-generation F-22 Raptor can fly at speeds of Mach 2.25.
The new Eagle can notably store up to 30,000 pounds of munitions, a huge threshold when compared to the F-35 Lightning II’s internal storage capacity of 6,000 pounds.
Although the Eagle II’s service tenure will be short once it enters service with the Air Force, it will surely be impressive.
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.